2 out of 4 stars
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It's been two years since Randy Johnson's family was murdered, and he's spent every day since haunted by guilt and anger. Just when he's ready to put an end to his life, a stranger named Eric finds him and promises to help him accomplish the only thing he wants to do: avenge his family by finding out who killed them and then bring the guilty party to justice.
A lead brings them to Los Angeles. Familiar tropes abound as Randy, consumed by a need for revenge, becomes a masked vigilante superhero. Eric fills the role of the tech-savvy and humorous right-hand man with a seemingly endless amount of optimism and compassion. They both have different ideas about justice and whether or not they should be doing more to help the crime-ridden city.
Will Randy catch the man who killed his family? Will his thirst for revenge override his sense of morality? Why is Eric, a stranger, so invested in Randy's mission? Who (or what) is behind all of the crime in L.A.?
City of Angelus Mortis is Alberto C. Orozco's debut novel. This 243-page book is written in the third-person limited, and each chapter is told from a specific character's viewpoint. Randy and Mary, a friend from his past, are the most frequent narrators, but we also see the viewpoints of more minor characters, including some of the antagonists. This makes for an interesting read as it helps humanize some of them, and it allows the reader to see things that the "heroes" can't. This, alongside familiar tropes, could have made for a predictable novel, but Orozco manages to throw in enough surprises to keep the reader on their toes.
Despite being full of action sequences and containing very few filler scenes, the novel moves at a slow pace. There are so many random details thrown into scenes that never come into play - such as how many feet are between the staircase, sofa, and door - that it bogs down the narrative. The author will never take a shortcut when it comes to telling the reader how someone gets from A to B. It's never, "They went to the car and headed to the restaurant." Instead, it's something like, "They took the elevator down. They walked to the car. He opened the door and got in." While sometimes these details can be important, there were many times when that wasn't the case. Trimming these areas of excess down would significantly help the book's pacing.
Thanks to the multiple viewpoints, the author does a great job of showing the internal conflicts and motives among the many characters. I think what I liked most about this book is that, while it's a book that's heavily focused on external conflict (like any book about superheroes), it gives the battle of man vs. self a lot of attention. This is particularly true in the case of Randy, whom we see confront some serious demons. Eric, while not quite as developed, was my favorite character, and it was interesting to see his motives come to light.
The women in the book don't tend to get the same treatment as the men, and sadly, the novel fails to deliver a main female character who has flaws that affect them in any significant way. Though Mary is a major player, we are often told more about her weaknesses rather than ever really seeing them. Mary is portrayed as strong and independent, but she, along with many other female characters, relies heavily on the men in her life.
The Prologue starts with a scene that's 26 years in the future, and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense until the end of the book. Even then, there are still a lot of questions. However, the author has stated that he wants to write sequels and/or more stories in this universe, so hopefully, this will be better explained in future books.
I give this novel 2 out of 4 stars. I found more than ten errors in the book, and would highly recommend a round of professional editing. If the errors were taken care of, I would happily give this a higher rating. Unconvincing and trite "deathbed confessions" by some of the antagonists, excessive details, and lack of good female characters also played roles in my rating. I didn't give it a lower star because of the wonderful characterization of Eric and Randy, the number of surprises in a trope-filled genre, and its interesting plot. It also grappled with some serious themes like morality, the common good, justice, revenge, anger, grief, and our duty to our fellow man.
After a round of editing, I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy superhero stories filled with vigilantes, gangs, questionable motives, and revenge. Those who don't want a book with any profanity should steer clear. Additionally, there's one scene where a stripper's body is discussed in detail, along with the implication of sexual acts to come, but other than that, this book is low on sexual scenes. However, a strip club does serve as the location of many scenes.
City of Angelus Mortis
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